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Processed Foods You Should Have in Your Home Pantry

Updated on March 9, 2020
Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle spends as much time in the kitchen as she does at a keyboard. It's no surprise that cooking and food are favorite article subjects.

"Freshly Canned" Tomatoes

Fresh and Natural is Great, but Sometimes . . .

Fresh, raw and organic foods are very popular today, as people try to make their diets more healthful and natural, but there can still be a place in your pantry for some of the now-to-be-dreaded, processed foods.

As a minimum, you probably will want to keep some kind of broth or bouillon, canned tomatoes, vegetables and fruits, as well as canned beans.

Yes, you "can" use dried beans, fresh or self-preserved tomatoes and your own simmered broth-- but in times of stress, sickness or power disruption, you will want foods that save you time and energy.

If you live a long way from stores, or if you are faced with emergency conditions, having some processed storable foods available can be a life saver.

Also, if you are careful in your choices, you can still make selections that avoid some of the worst additives and ingredients.

Variety Helps

Read Label Information

How do you make the best choice for your pantry items?

  • First, check the expiration date, expiry date, or "best if used by" date. The truth is, most canned foods are "good" for much longer than the date posted on the can. "Good" means that it will not kill you or make you ill after the posted date, even if the product loses a little quality in color or texture. If you use commercially canned items only occasionally, make sure they are dated for at least a year ahead of the purchase date. Two years is better. Always get the latest dated items you can find for storage. Sometimes the newest products are way at the back of the shelf, since the store likes to rotate its goods, too.
  • Read the ingredient list. Yes, It takes time, especially if the list is three inches long and contains lots of thing you cannot pronounce. If the list IS that long and full of unpronounceable words, this a red flag in itself. Are you buying food or a chemical experiment?

  • Even if you are trying to be more natural and additive-free in foods, you can select shelf-stable foods that will suit your needs. Sometimes you just need something that is fast and easy to prepare. Ingredients in various brands of canned foods vary. Pick the freshest and best you can find which also have the fewest questionable additives.There are also brands of canned organic products which have no offensive additives and are marked with the same expiration date as the one with preservatives. The ingredient list on some black beans and pinto beans says : "Organic beans, water, and sea salt." That's about as close to fresh as you can get in a can.

  • Read the Small Print. You might notice that some of the most important information is in the smallest type size possible. Take a hard look at the additives, fats and sugars that seem omnipresent in almost every part of the modern western diet. Choose less processed and less additive-laden varieties whenever possible.
  • Make sure the can is not damaged, dented, leaking, bulging, or being attacked by mold, fungus or extraterrestrial life forms of any color or texture.

Whenever possible, buy foods that are dated beyond the day of the latest "end of the world" prediction.

Canned Tomatoes

There are some attractive and versatile canned tomato products you may wish to keep on hand. Tomato sauce, stewed tomatoes and spaghetti sauce save you some work and can be used in many ways.

Some diced tomatoes are have an Italian flair with added basil, garlic, and oregano. Others May be "fire roasted" or have a Mexican accent with chilies and onions.

One thing you might consider with the "enhanced" tomatoes is that they may also contain high fructose corn syrup or other sugars. If sugars are added to the canned recipe, it may be an indication that the tomatoes may not be the ripest or best quality.

It is very important to check the condition of the cans and dates on these particular products. Check cans for bulging, leaking etc and throw out any questionable containers if they develop suspicious symptoms. It might indicate spoilage which can make you sick or even dead.

If you like commercially prepared tomato-based sauces you might consider the ones in Atlas, Mason or other glass canning jars. The containers let you see the product and they are reusable when you want to can your own tomatoes, or other fruits or vegetables. (Even if you don't plan to can. You can, at least save jars for those who do can.)

Canning Your own

On the other hand if you are willing to give the idea of home canning your tomatoes in glass jars-- you will find it is one of the easiest foods to preserve in this way. You don't need a pressure cooker.

You will need to buy our own canning lids or jars-- or buy paraffin wax to top your jams. Another good thing about glass jar canning is that you can see the product inside the container-- if it starts to percolate, or turn strange colors it is ready to be dumped or taken to a local toxic waste disposal site.

Canning your own home grown tomatoes is pretty simple, as is making jam, jellies and pickles. It takes some time, but you might feel it is worth the effort if you have a quantity of fresh fruits and vegetables.

In addition to the satisfaction you gain from doing it yourself, and probably saving money, you will KNOW exactly what your jars contain. (You are probably not going to be adding high fructose corn syrup, MSG or autolyzed yeast to your recipes. ).

"Stock" Piles

Canned or aseptic packaged broths are very handy to have on hand. For making soup out of various ingredients, for flavoring bland but filling dishes like potato, rice or pasta, or just as a comforting warm beverage when you are not feeling well, you probably want to keep some chicken, beef or vegetable stock in your cupboard.

Packaged Chicken broths:

  • "Brand S": sodium, 570 mg.This was a lower sodium version. The regular one in this brand has 960 mg per serving. There's also a no sodium version. Ingredients: Dextrose Autolyzed Yeast extract, celery juice concentrate, carrot juice concentrate and onion juice concentrate
  • "Brand G " has 970 mg sodium per serving also has monosodium glutamate, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract, water, corn syrup, partially hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oil, xanthan gum, caramel color invert sugar also contains milk and soy.

Of the two, brand G is cheaper-- no surprise. Which one seems more healthful. Which one would you rather serve to your family?

There are also broth concentrates which have some advantages. They take up less space, they leave behind less packaging and are often cheaper per serving. Check the sodium content.

Recommendation: In this case, look for the name brand when it's on sale and stock up on the quality products in either (or both) canned and aseptic packaged varieties. The containers are recyclable. You may notice that this particular product is often featured as a special sale item during the holidays. Buy it. Check the dates and labels.

Reasons you want broth in your pantry:

  • Convenience: Easy and tasty way to make soup out of leftovers.Easy way to stretch the soup or make good gravy.
  • Emergency: Quick to heat up for a warming cupful, even with emergency heat sources. Served with crackers and cheese or canned spreads, it can seem like a real meal.
  • Convalescent diet: If you are sick or taking care of someone who is under the weather, you don't want to run to the store or spend hours making broth. Chicken soup also seems to have some actual benefits for cold or flu victims.

Also, if you are on a liquid diet for medical tests, you want to have lot of this "stocked". Of course, you could make your own stock and freeze it. That way you control the sodium and there are no questionable ingredients.


Meaningless Information on Chicken Stock Labels

"Our products have been chosen according to our highest specifications.
"Enjoy our commitment to quality and value."

"Natural Goodness ! "

"Made with All NATURAL Chicken Stock."

Notice that it doesn't say that ALL the ingredients are natural, it is just "with" them. It is good to know that there is something natural in there, even if the "goodness" can't actually be quantified.

Thes statements usually appear in large splashy graphics. The real information is in the tiny typeface of the ingredients.

What to Look For

  1. Quality of ingredients -- go for nutrient dense foods.

2. Order of ingredients -- the ingredients are listed by predominance of ingredients.

3. Small number of ingredients -- especially artificial additives and "mystery ingredients".

4. Adaptability -- how many ways can you use it? Tomatoes can be sauce, soup, casserole ingredient, salad topping, etc

Compare the labels of canned and packaged goods you already have. You can learn a lot from the ingredients and the nutrition facts.

A simple general rule about additives is to avoid sodium nitrite, saccharin, caffeine, olestra, acesulfame K, and artificial coloring. Not only are they among the most questionable additives, but they are used primarily in foods of low nutritional value.

Also, don’t forget the two most familiar additives: sugar and salt. They may pose the greatest risk because we consume so much of them. You need to consider these closely if you have certain health problems.

Most additives are considered safe and some even increase the nutritional value of the food.

You can find a link describing common additives here.

Other Good Storage Items

Dried grains, legumes and beans: These items have the shortest ingredient list of anything in your pantry . Their "list" generally says something like "pearl barley"," black beans", or "whole rolled oats". These basically unprocessed items can be kept for long periods of time when protected from insects, light, extreme temperature, and humidity.

Cutting back on fast foods, sugars, corn syrup, hydrogenated fats and chemical ingredients is a good idea, but just because you are eating better, doesn't mean you need to toss every packaged and canned food out the window.

There are still a few commercially prepared foods that are worth keeping in your personal stockpile, for convenience, variety and emergency.


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    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      21 months ago from California Gold Country

      Wesman-- living in the country means I have to travel a good distance to get to a proper grocery store. We do have a couple of small country convenience stores a little closer. They probably have the items you mention, but it seems that their focus is on sodas, beer and about 50 different kinds of potato and corn chips.

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 

      21 months ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Congrats and your traffic milestone, Rochelle. I'm basically always banned from the forums, and nobody tells me why - but I do look at them. And I think I recall you here from my earliest days, and, unlike me and most others - you always seem to be in a good mood!

      I was watching some YouTube political video the other day, and YouTube had taken advertisements from this person because he's sensible and not mainstream opinionated...but he'd beat the whole game.

      This guy would do his video show, and in parts he'd break and read his own gosh dang commercials, he was getting paid to do his own advertising for someone else. Which I thought, wow, that's fantastic. How is YouTube going to take that from him?

      Anyway, one of his advertisements was "win a two year disaster food supply." Basically, it was all canned goods. What a friggin FANTASTIC idea!

      Wish I had two years worth of emergency canned goods.

      Ramen noodles, cans of spam, and jars of cheese sauce and salsa. I could live on that for a while. Yeppers. :)

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      3 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks Dolores, I agree with you on the canned peas. However, I find canned green beans to be just fine. They are also easy to grow, and I usually get more than I can use. Never tried canned greens and canned potatoes are awful-- at least the last time I tried them.

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      3 years ago from East Coast, United States

      During the summer I used all fresh ingredients for everything and my husband grows quite a few vegetables. But once cold weather sets in, I do use some canned goods. Some work out well canned, others do not. Canned peas, for example, are always horrible. Once my sister served up canned greens. If I had known before hand that they were canned, I would have passed. But I was surprised at how good they tasted!

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      6 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks for commenting, peachpurple. I do keep a few. All of those things you mentioned can come in handy, especially when you find yourself running low on fresh supplies.

    • peachpurple profile image


      6 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      i don';t keep canned foods often but just in case, i do keep mushrooms , sardins, corn kernels, all in canned with long expiry dates

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      7 years ago from California Gold Country

      I think we sometime get into the habit of saying ALL processed food is bad (even that we process ourselves). There are a few exceptions, and they can be a great help in many situations. Thanks very much, RTalloni.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Useful and important info here. Thanks for highlighting it for us here at this summer's end.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      9 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you, princess. Yes it is important to know what's in the can or package. Some companies are beginning to know that people actually check the ingredients, and there have been some changes made. A few are not using questionable additives--but others are just changing the name of the ingredient, so we have to be on our toes.

    • princesswithapen profile image


      9 years ago


      I liked this hub because it has a lot of information that I call 'good to know'. We often pick up things off the supermarket shelf, trusting their ingredients from brand and face value. However it is important to quickly twist the can around and skim through the ingredients.

      The health conscious lot are a bit wary of canned foods but I do agree with you that carefully selected canned foods are OK for not-so-frequent consumption.


    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      10 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you, kentuckyslone. I appreciate the nice comment.

    • kentuckyslone profile image


      10 years ago

      Excellent hub! Important info and presented in a very detailed and informative way.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      11 years ago from California Gold Country

      I always use a manual can opener, anyway, and I do have a hub about when the power goes out. It is a country fact of life.

      Thanks for reading.

    • magnoliazz profile image


      11 years ago from Wisconsin


      You can also can meat! You will need a pressure cooker for this, but it is not hard at all, and it is just delicious. I can meat for my husband's hunting trips, and the guys actually fight over it! LOL! One guy even paid 20.00 for a can of roast beef, that's how good it is.

      I like to can chuck roast, so I watch the paper for a big sale. I go and buy up as much as they let me have, then take it all home and can it up.

      You just cut up the meat raw, season it and put it in the canning jars and cook it in the pressure cooker. Every cooker has instructions that tell you exactly how to do it.

      Then, all you do is open it up, heat it up and you are done! You have the gravy and everything right there. This is how they used to process meat years ago before home refrigeration....and it still works!

    • magnoliazz profile image


      11 years ago from Wisconsin

      I wish I could give this hub more than a thumbs up. An excellent and informative hub Rochelle!

      Everyone should have a good stock of canned goods in case of emergencies. You will also need a manuel can opener.

      I have one big closet stocked with canned goods. I buy big on sale, and also can from the garden. You can save a lot of money this way, and you will always have food on hand. I make pantry suppers 2-3 times a week, especially during the winter months. Who wants to haul groceries through ice and snow?

      Everyone should have enough food for at least 2 weeks in their home, just in case. It takes a little work, and a little planning, but it pays off with a big dose of "peace of mind". If a big snowstorm happens to be bearing down on us, I don't have to worry about food. People should also have a store of water somewhere. If the lights go out, there goes your water too.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Well, when one home "cans" food, it is usually done in glass jars-- rather than actual tins. I have wondered about the term "canning", myself-- on the other hand, I guess "jarring" would sound a little strange.

    • humbledhomely profile image


      12 years ago

      "Even if you don't plan to can. You can, at least save jars for those who do can." Can you really can reused cans? :P

      Beautifully written hubs, informational but light enough to be taken in by the average joe.

      For me, one thing I know is I'll always get my fish canned, than try and can some fish.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      debris, Try a few vegetables. :)

      Kstyle-- it's all good. And I think I have seen that site, Thanks!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      all good stuff! I have a new site I visit which I found on twitter, it's called Cooking with Nonna. Check it out, you'll love it. Rossella is very sweet and the Apron story is really heartwarming.

    • debris profile image

      Dennis Ebris 

      12 years ago from Florida

      @Rochelle: That's a neat idea, almost like marinating your tomatos :D Sorry, I'm a grilling guy, I think in tems of meat.


    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks, Peggy. Yes, I would be wary anything that looked like space aliens had been monkeying with it, but if you come across any of those you can probably sell your story to the tabloids.

      Thank you, debris. You 'can' just put up your tomatoes and make the sauce later. I used to put a little onion and celery in mine, which gave it a head start toward being sauce.

    • debris profile image

      Dennis Ebris 

      12 years ago from Florida

      Very nice, and practical advice Rochelle! I've wanted to start canning my own tomato sauces, my only problem is that I need to first come up with a tomato sauce worth canning :-D It's a work in progress.


    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      12 years ago from Houston, Texas

      You had me laughing to myself when I read about discarding anything that extraterrestrials had compromised. Funny! Good article and most everyone should keep some stock items on hand for emergencies or just plain ease of cooking. Thumbs up!

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      As I said-- tomatoes are the easiest and the safest thing to home can. I used to do mine in a big roasting pan with a lid on top and a rack in the bottom. I'm sure you can find good details on line. Tomatoes, being naturally acidic are less likely to 'turn' on you.

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 

      12 years ago from Wisconsin

      Great info. I want to do my own canning this year. though there are some things I cannot do.

      Thanks for the reference information.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      I used to be able to process a few jars early in the morning while I was getting ready for my day. After you have done it once or twice, you will find out it doesn't take much time. Canned tomatoes are very versatile.

    • profile image

      Erick Smart 

      12 years ago

      I cannot keep enough canned tomatos in my home over the winter. I use them in not only Italian dishes but also soups, stews, chilis and more. I would love to can my own but it just seems I never have the time when they are coming out of the garden so fast.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks Iphagenia and girly_girl. Most of us need a little help and are glad to have it. We are a long way from the days when people had to grind their own grain to make bread. Few of us even make the bread.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      I always have a couple of containers of free-range chicken broth on hand. I cook with it almost everyday. You can use it in mashed potatoes instead of using milk and butter. I also use it as a base for many homemade soups.

      Thanks for this great article!

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      I always have a stock of tinned stuff - tomatoes and beans mainly, kidney beans, runner beans, chick peas - they are both healthy and useful in crises or times of dire laziness (in my case). This is great advice generally and fantasic advice specifiaclly, especially all that work you put into writing about what's on the labels. My two thumbs are up !

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thank you CS and Dynamic-- I find myself drawn to the subject. I love my large pantry--it is so much more tangible, inspiring, comforting and friendly than a paper insurance policy.

    • DynamicS profile image

      Sandria Green-Stewart 

      12 years ago from Toronto, Canada

      Great hub, very informative and practical. Thanks for sharing.

    • C.S.Alexis profile image


      12 years ago from NW Indiana

      peanut butter, dried or dehydrated fruits,nuts....I too agree that beans and other foods you mentioned are good to have. Be sure to have a hand cranked opener too.

      Rochelle, I do not find survival in an emergency boring, great share here.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thak you Melody.

      I encourage anyone to add to this.

    • Melody Lagrimas profile image

      Melody Lagrimas 

      12 years ago from Philippines

      Very helpful and informative, thanks, Rochelle.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      More than just a bit, I suppose, GG. Common sense and the other senses of sight, smell, feel should trump the printed information.

    • GiftedGrandma profile image


      12 years ago from USA

      Great information..I always figured the expiration dates could be ignored for a bit longer

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Anna-- thanks so much. I almost thought of not writing such a 'boring' article. but it is something I have strong feelings about. Your response has validated my small effort.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      12 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Hey, Rochelle -- we all need to eat. Since I broke my arm, I haven't been able to prepare fresh food (it's dangerous enough me chopping stuff with a knife in my RIGHT hand), so I've been doing just what you suggest here -- but ya know what? at first i was feeling guilty about using canned goods. THANK YOU for vindicating the use of properly canned goods with few additives.

      Besides -- your great writing style is anything but mundane!

    • Anna Evanswood profile image


      12 years ago from Malaysia

      Such an informative hub. I must admit I don't always check ingredients on the cans i buy.. i will do it more often now.

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Teresa, I appreciate your support so much. Almost as much as I admire your writing and insights.

      This was rather mundane. I almost didn't finish it. So many people have published such beautiful, emotion-grabbing, or funny, personal or sexy-pop culture subjects lately, I almost felt that an ordinary "sensible" aritcle seemed out of place.

    • Teresa McGurk profile image


      12 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Sensible, helpful, and funny, too. Tomatoes and beans are so handy to have -- you're right; circumstances can dictate sensible use of canned goods.

    • futonfraggle profile image


      12 years ago

      Great information. I got into canning last Fall. It's a lot of work but I had plenty of tomato sauce and pickled veges to last the winter months. Thanks for pointing out the additives to avoid, too!

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Cooking, itself, takes care of some evil things. But you are right, Lissie, canned things really have a much longer shelf life than advertised.

      Anything that 'spurts' when punctured should be discarded or donated to the local botox  administrator (kidding). Botulism might be worse than starvation, though I'm not totally sure.

      By the way, I'm sure I'm way older than you. BED (Before Expiry Dates) it seems to me that the tins were much heftier. Don't know if this made a difference.

    • Lissie profile image

      Elisabeth Sowerbutts 

      12 years ago from New Zealand

      LOL re the expiry date - the last time we moved country we had to work our way thru the back of the larder - stuff that is 3 years old doesn't kill you and in fact tastes no difference. Us old people remember life before expiry dates- its a great marketing ploy I think - a can is bad if the lid has popped - this can happed at any date if there is a small hole in the can. Cheese and meat is bad if you can smell it - though normally you can cut the bad bit off. My attitude horrifies some but I have never made myself or anyone else sick from cooking ...

    • Rochelle Frank profile imageAUTHOR

      Rochelle Frank 

      12 years ago from California Gold Country

      Thanks you two-- I hate it when the refrigerator blinks.

      And it has almost gotten to the point where it seems 'wrong' to cook anything that is not fresh. There are a lot of canned things I am very thankful to have available.

    • profile image


      12 years ago

      a very informative hub since we can't really avoid using some canned items specially cooking in the kitchen.

    • DonnaCSmith profile image

      Donna Campbell Smith 

      12 years ago from Central North Carolina

      I've had my frig go on the blink twice in one year - so those non-perishables are handy to have.


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